Andrew Sallis: Keeping busy in the downtime *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    With the vale ditches running as hard as they have all winter, it seems like “someone’s law” that now is the time that we have to stage our most public events, the point-to-points. Due to our hunt’s multifarious genealogy, we are entitled to several meetings held at two venues.

    As our hunt lorry was towed out of the racecourse on Easter Saturday by three young farmers on their “green giants”, I reflected on a day not just stolen from the weather, but a true country celebration against the odds, which produced quality racing in front of a surprisingly large crowd. It required a Herculean effort by the organising team and a hundred volunteers, which was mirrored at events all around the country.

    The financial value of point-to-points to individual hunts varies enormously, from those who barely muster a profit to those hunts who rely on a bumper bank holiday crowd to underwrite their season’s expenses. Event insurance or a payout from an area slush fund can lessen the pain after an abandoned meeting but, with so many lost or postponed meetings due to biblical conditions, hunt fundraisers will have to be at the top of their game to plug the financial gap.

    A consistent income stream

    I am assured by my family that the hunting world is actually a relatively small microcosm and not a global priority; however, some matters of principle. Few subjects raise the hackles in hunt committee meetings more than point-to-point subscriptions, particularly if the local Blankshire Draghounds are offering cut-price deals under the table to owners in your country. The new central collection of point-to-point subscriptions will be run through Weatherbys. No system will keep everyone happy but, crucially, it will level the playing field for hunts and owners alike and generate a genuine, consistent income stream for hunts. This further strengthens the vital bond between hunting and point-to-pointing.

    Traditional qualifying did introduce horses and plenty of jockeys to hunting, but few huntsmen miss their hounds having to run the gauntlet past flighty point-to-pointers who probably should have been hunted more often, not less.

    ‘Not long until we start again’

    After more than 100 days’ hunting, hounds will now enjoy some deserved downtime before the bikes come out for the start of hound exercise in a month or so. They’ll gain a little summer condition, although I don’t recall Linford Christie gaining too much weight out of season.

    Hound parades and shows loom. Our first parade, last weekend at the point-to-point, was only days after finishing hunting and slightly confused the hounds. As we galloped down the home straight, wiser hounds veered towards the racecourse covert. “Why is he blowing the horn like a crazed banshee? Why are those people cheering? And now we’re back on the lorry so soon.”

    During the customary “meet the hounds”, one young bitch was photographed inspecting the furry tailpiece of a rather splendid hat, just to make sure it wasn’t going to jump off the elegant lady’s head and make for the hills.

    “Not long to go ‘til we start again,” my old terrierman used to remind me once Easter had passed. In the meantime, support your local hunt and come racing.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 April 2018